With just 28 days in the month, make the most of them this February and take in as many opportunities as you can to gaze up at the wonders of the sky – both day and night! There’s a chance to spot three planets in the night sky at once (without the need of a telescope of binoculars) this February if the weather conditions are favourable. Plus, there’s the familiar winter constellations to find like Orion which are packed with starry treats. The days of course are gradually getting longer and the nights shorter as we edge towards spring.
The Night Sky
Planet hunters are in for a treat around sunset on the 21st of February with a thin crescent Moon guiding the eye towards a conjunction of the planets Venus and Mars. By around 6pm, viewers should see the Moon, Venus and Mars with the Sun dipping below the horizon. Venus is brighter than Mars, though with the two appearing so close together in the sky it might be difficult to separate them with the unaided eye.
Jupiter is at it’s highest point in night sky around midnight, but can be spotted right through until dawn. It’s in opposition with the Sun on the 6th February – at it’s closest point to us and brightest for 2015.
There’s quite a bit of talk in the news just now about the dwarf planets, Ceres and Pluto as NASA’s Dawn and New Horizons probes hone in on there targets. Just out of interest, Ceres and Pluto are due South around 9.30am and impossible to see with the naked eye (though it’s nice to know they’re there!) New Horizons isn’t due to get to its closest to Pluto until 14th July 2015, but Dawn, having already visited the asteroid, Vesta will reach Ceres in the Spring. It’s anther exciting year for space exploration!
February is a great month to spot the constellation of Orion, as it rises in the East before sunset and can be tracked moving across the sky through the evening.
The image below shows the sky overhead Glasgow, UK around midnight on the 18th February 2015. As the night of the new Moon this gives a great opportunity to see the the sky without the additional light reflecting from our neighbour in space. You can click on it to make the image larger.
Sunrise and Sunset times, Glasgow
3rd February 2015 – Sunrise 08:08 Sunset 16:54
12th February 2015 – Sunrise 07:49 Sunset 17:14
18th February 2015 – Sunrise 07:36 Sunset 17:27
- 25th February 2015 – Sunrise 07:19 Sunset 17:42
All the times listed above are local to Glasgow.
Full Moon – 3rd February 2015, 23:09
Third Quarter – 12th February 2015, 03:50
New Moon – 18th February 2015, 23:47
- First Quarter – 25th February 2015, 17:14
Times listed above are local to Glasgow.
Are you just getting into astronomy or a seasoned pro? Check out these fantastic books about astronomy which are accessible for all levels and highly recommended.
This February, get out and look up often to enjoy the spectacular skies!